Former bantamweight boxing champion Wayne McCullough said he retains a love affair with his sport despite its down times and said, "Boxing is my life."
That, though, didn't stop McCullough, who insists that at nearly 37 he's still an active boxer, from taking a job in mixed martial arts with the UFC.
McCullough, who lives in Las Vegas where the UFC is based, said he will be an ambassador for the company and the sport in Europe. McCullough is from Northern Ireland and won a silver medal for the country in the 1992 Olympics.
He said a long-time friendship with UFC president Dana White led to the deal. And though McCullough is aware of the increasingly volatile rhetoric between White and top boxing promoters, he insists there is room for both sports.
"Everyone wants to compare them for some reason, but they're completely different sports," McCullough said. "I don't buy the idea that you're either a boxing fan or (an MMA) fan. I think you can be both."
McCullough, who hasn't fought since he dropped a July 16, 2005 bid for the WBC super bantamweight title to Oscar Larios, said the UFC is succeeding because it is promoting itself and its sport properly.
Boxing, McCullough said, "is a mess" in the way it is promoted. He said boxing is promoted incorrectly more often than not and cited his fight with Larios as proof.
The bout was held on a pay-per-view card in Las Vegas, his adopted hometown, and served as the chief undercard bout for a middleweight title match between Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor.
McCullough, though, was ignored in the promotion.
"I wasn't even on the poster and it was my home," McCullough said. "The boxing promoters are all for their own guys and if you're not signed with them, they act like you don't exist. It just seems to make sense that if you are promoting a show and you have a guy on the card fighting in his hometown going after a title, you'd have his picture on the poster and you'd try to push him.
"But nothing happened for me. You don't see that with the UFC. They really promote the right way and when they promote a fight, you know everyone who is on the card."
McCullough said he believes MMA is also a safer sport than boxing and said that no one is dying in MMA fights or suffering serious long-term injuries.
He said it has shed its mid-1990s reputation as an outlaw sport where anything went.
"You hear abut the human cockfighting line every now and again, but that's a thing of the past I think," McCullough said.
"You don't have people dying in this sport. In boxing, there are people dying. You don't have the people being badly hurt. In boxing, there are people being badly hurt.
"They wear the smaller gloves and when there is a knockout, it comes quicker and there's less damage being done."
- Wayne McCullough